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Are the Brexit Party more likely to win than the Conservatives in the pro-Brexit Labour Heartlands?

There’s a theory that gained so much traction that it’s become almost a matter of fact – strong Labour leave areas in the Midlands and the North will not vote Tory and it’s the Brexit Party that stands the better chance.

So I’ve looked at 16 of the strongest Leave votes with strong Labour margins in 2017. All these constituencies voted 68% or more in favour of leave and the smallest Labour majority in 2017 was Scunthorpe with 8.53%. If the Brexit Party had “safe seats” it would be these.

I’ve looked at what the bookies think (using William Hill throughout for consistency), what the Yougov MRP says, what the original Best for Britain MRP says and what my own Poliforecast says. One could argue that the original Best for Britain MRP is a little out of date, but the comparisons and similarities with Yougov are actually interesting. The Poliforecast “factors in” each MRP and constituency poll to predict the actual result based on the national polls at the time. However, I’ve based this analysis on a hypothetical national poll of Conservative 41% and Labour 36% since that would be close to the “cross-over” where a Conservative majority disappears.

The seats we’re looking at are Barnsley Central, Barnsley East, Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Don Valley, Doncaster North, Hartlepool, Hemsworth, Kingston upon Hull East, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, Rotherham, Scunthorpe, Wentworth and Dearne, West Bromwich East, West Bromwich West and Wolverhampton South.

Barnsley Central

Existing since 1983, Barnsley Central has always returned a Labour MP and that is very unlikely to change this time. They voted 68% leave but gave Labour a huge 15546 majority in 2017. The bookies have the Tories very slightly ahead of the Brexit Party, 9/1 vs 10/1 – with Labour way ahead at 10/1 ON. Both the Yougov MRP and the Best for Britain MRP have the Brexit Party slightly ahead of the Tories - the only Yougov MRP in this analysis to have the Brexit Party in second place. However, both MRPs are in agreement with the bookies – the Labour Party are way ahead. The Poliforecast has Labour on 21795, the Conservatives on 8136, and the Brexit Party pipping the Conservatives at 8327. So, you could argue that our theory of the Brexit Party standing a better chance holds true for Barnsley Central, but with Labour so far ahead, it is unlikely anything can prevent a Labour win here.

Barnsley East

Similar background story for Barnsley East, and similar result. It’s extremely unlikely that Labour will be beaten in Barnsley East, the bookies having them as 7/1 ON. However, only the Best for Britain MRP has the Brexit Party ahead here. The bookies, by 13/2 to 9/1, have the Conservatives ahead of the Brexit Party and Yougov has the Conservatives ahead 27% to 24%. Poliforecast predicts the result as Labour 21340, Conservatives 10480 and the Brexit Party on 8941.

The Conservatives and the Brexit Party will almost certainly finish 2nd and 3rd in both seats – although it isn’t certain which will finish 2nd and which will finish 3rd, it’s pretty certain neither will finish 1st!

Bassetlaw

Not so Bassetlaw. The Brexit-friendly John Mann’s former seat sees Labour defending a 4852 majority, so far more precarious for Labour than the Barnsley seats. Unanimity of forecast reigns here with the bookies and both MRPs all having the Conservatives ahead. Of these 16 seats, the bookies think this is the most likely to fall to the Tories, and they are currently 4/9 favourites. Likewise, the Yougov MRP has the Tories taking the seat by 44 to Labour’s 38, with the Brexit Party on 11%. However, the Poliforecast has the result as Conservative 23389, Labour 23963 and the Brexit Party on 5737. Remember what I asked the Poliforecast to do was predict the result based on the Conservatives missing out on a majority rather than current polling. What this shows is that if the polls narrow it could be the difference between Bassetlaw being a Conservative seat for the first time since 1929.

Neither the bookies or either MRP gives the Brexit Party a realistic hope of taking Bassetlaw. It’s a key example where just a few hundred Brexit Party supporters could make the difference to Brexit, whilst having no hope of making a difference for the Brexit Party itself.

Bolsover

A Labour seat since it was created in 1950, this is the first time the Beast of Bolsover has looked in any real danger. The bookies have the Tories and the Labour Party neck and neck on 5/6, but the Brexit Party out on 33/1. Both MRPs have the Conservatives slightly ahead, with the Brexit Party quite a way behind – Yougov has Con 42, Lab 38 and BXP 12. The Poliforecast has the Conservatives on 19511, Labour 21072 and the Brexit Party on 5597. Again, the Poliforecast shows the Conservatives losing the seat if the polls narrow. According to the model, if 1600 Brexit supporters switched to the Conservatives they would take the seat even if the polls narrowed.

Don Valley

Caroline Flint is a remainer, but has a little more popularity amongst Brexiteers after vowing to respect the referendum result. That said, Don Valley is looking as precarious as it has ever been in its 101 year history. The bookies see an identical story as Bolsover, with the Tories and the Labour Party both on 5/6, and the Brexit Party out on 33/1. Again, both MRPs have the Tories ahead with Yougov awarding BXP with 14% of the vote. The Poliforecast shows Labour on 21072, Conservatives 19511 and the Brexit Party on 7093. Again, an almost identical scenario with 1600 Brexit voters needing to switch to the Conservatives to take the seat.

Doncaster North

Always a safe Labour seat and will remain so this time. The Tories are 11/2, the Brexit Party are 16/1. Poliforecast shows a Labour majority of 12000 and with the Brexit Party expected 7000 votes or so no amount of tactical manoeuvrings would take this from Labour.

Hartlepool

Richard Tice is the challenger here, probably the highest profile Brexit Party challenge and, according to the bookies, the seat they are most likely to win. However, they are still third favourites - William Hill showing Labour 1/2, Cons 10/3 and BXP 4/1. The Best for Britain MRP had the Conservatives and the Brexit Party as a dead heat, with Yougov having Lab 40, Con 31 and BXP 23. Poliforecast has Lab 19167, Cons 12346 and the Brexit Party on 11567. On the face of it, the Brexit vote is split and if the two combined they would take the seat. Remember, not every Conservative would support the Brexit Party and not every Brexit Party supporter would support the Conservatives. Chances are, if either had sat the contest out, Labour would win in any case.

Hemsworth

Unanimity reigns again. Both MRPs, the bookies and the Poliforecast has the Labour Party 1st, the Tories a good distance behind, and a good distance behind them the Brexit Party. The Poliforecast is Lab 22457, Cons 13422 and BXP 5069. A Labour hold, no matter what.

Kingston upon Hull East

The most leave Labour held constituency in the country, with 72.83% voting to leave the EU. Even here every measure would leave the Brexit Party in third place. 12/1 with William Hill, compared to Labour’s 1/7. Similar to Hartlepool, the Tories and Brexit are so split, there probably is no realistic tactical route to a Brexit MP.

Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford

Yvette Cooper, one of the chief architects of the Parliamentary shenanigans designed to block Brexit, defends a 14499 majority. 69% of people voted to leave, she promised in her 2017 election leaflet to respect the referendum but has done everything possible since to prevent it. Surely here, if the theory about strong Labour leave areas was remotely correct, the Brexit Party should be challenging? They are not. The Best for Britain MRP has the Labour Party first, well ahead of the Conservatives who are well ahead of the Brexit Party. Yougov MRP has Lab 40, Cons 32 and BXP 18. Poliforecast has Cons 13405, Lab 25535 and BXP on 9579. There is no realistic prospect of the Brexit Party winning whatever happens, and no realistic prospect of either stopping Labour if the polls narrow. However, if the polls are as they are today, and the Yougov MRP is accurate then if half of the Brexit Party supported the Conservatives Yvette Cooper would be in trouble. In any other scenario, she is quite safe – bookies confirm, having her at 2/9.

Rotherham

Very similar to Pontefract in terms of the gaps between candidates, but given Sarah Champion’s position of respecting the referendum it is unlikely there will be quite the same motivation to remove her as with Yvette Cooper. Safe Labour seat.

Scunthorpe

A relatively new seat, but thus far always Labour has the Conservatives favourite this time at 4/6, Labour on 11/10 and the Brexit Party on 14/1. Similarly, both MRPs have the Conservatives a little ahead. Yougov show Cons 42, Lab 40 and BXP 10. Again, assuming the polls narrow to the point where the Conservative majority disappears, the Poliforecast shows Cons 16822, Lab 18248 and BXP with 3774. With quite weak support for the Brexit Party, it’s quite probable if the polls close that the Labour Party will retain the seat.

Wentworth and Dearne

Both MRPs and the bookies show the Labour Party well ahead, with the Brexit Party in third. Yougov have Lab 45, Cons 33 and BXP 14. No realistic possibility of this not being a Labour seat regardless.

West Bromwich East

Split decision on this one. Best for Britain MRP had Labour comfortably ahead, but Yougov had Cons 40, Lab 39 and BXP 9. The bookies have Labour edging it at 5/6, with the Tories evens and the Brexit Party way out at 40/1. Poliforecast, based on the polls narrowing, shows Labour taking the seat by 2500 votes, with the Brexit Party taking 3500. Some unpredictability built in here with George Galloway standing as independent.

West Bromwich East

Another split decision, but a little more favourable for the Conservatives in that the bookies make them slight favourites over Labour, but again with the Brexit Party out of the game at 50/1. Again, Poliforecast shows Labour taking the seat by 2000 or so, with the Brexit Party gaining 3500.

Wolverhampton South East

Best for Britain MRP didn’t give anyone but Labour any chance, and it’s unlikely to be taken from Labour, but there is some hope in the Yougov MRP – Lab 45, Cons 38 and BXP 11. If the polls narrow there is no realistic possibility at all of this seating falling to the Conservatives. But if they widen, or there is some considerable switching from the Brexit Party, or a combination of both, it’s an outside possibility. Should be a Labour hold.

Conclusion

Are the Brexit Party far more likely than the Conservatives to win in leave voting Labour heartlands? Emphatically no. The only seats which the Brexit Party are even arguably ahead of the Conservatives are Barnsley Central and East (although the bookies disagree in both seats). In both seats they are well behind Labour – by 19 points in Barnsley Central. At 10/1 and 9/1 neither has any realistic chance of going to the Brexit Party. In the one seat, Hartlepool, where there is a faint hope given by the bookmakers (although Yougov disagree this time) they are still 4/1 and still behind the Tories on every analysis. Other than these three seats the Brexit Party averaged 14% with Yougov and didn’t get better than 12/1 with the bookies.

Remember these are the seats that the Brexit Party should have the best chance of winning – all above 68% voted leave and all with significant labour majorities in seats which the Tories never win.

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